Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Strawberry Limeade Spritzer

This makes a beautiful punch for baby showers and a great pick-me-up on days you just want to drink something pretty and delicious. 

Strawberry Limeade Spritzer

1 container of strawberries, washed and pureed
1 can of pink lemonade frozen concentrate
1 (2 liter) bottle of Sprite




Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl or pitcher. Serve in a sugar rimmed glass, over ice, with a strawberry garnish. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Why I took my kids toys away, too!


My girls are sweet, smart, and silly. I love them more than life and I admit that I jump on any opportunity to bring them happiness. Unfortunately for my kids, that often meant coming home with unnecessary toys...usually after a trip to Target, amirite?! While this gave them great joy in the short term, over time I think I overloaded my kids. They came to expect a toy every time I came home...from the bank, the grocery store, the mailbox. =/ And I'm sorry to say, I delivered on almost every occasion. Between me and the grandmas, well, it was just redonkulous. 

But it all started with an iPad. A magical device, really. Loaded with hundreds of educational games and a few just plain fun ones. I didn't regulate my kids usage. Whenever they wanted to play, it was there. But I noticed a change in June. She loved games like Hay Day, Littlest Pet Shop, and My Little Pony. She was obsessed with collecting all the different pets, growing her crops, and building the towns. She began playing it non-stop. Checking on the queues every few minutes, waiting for the building to finish so she could buy another one. And when she wasn't staring into the iPad, she looked wild, she couldn't sit still and her eyes would dart from one spot to another. She was totally overstimulated and it really scared me. 



So that day, I took away the iPad. I put a password lock on it so she couldn't access it. The first few days, she went through a sort of iPad withdrawal. Fine one minute, teary eyed the next. But about a week after I took it away, she had almost completely forgotten about it. Success!!

But then I came across THIS post and really started thinking hard about how much good all those toys really did for them. Not much, I decided. They never played with one toy for very long before they quickly lost interest. I want my kids to be able to focus on one task at a time, build their imagination, create stories...that just wasn't going to happen with so many distractions. So, we wiped them out. We removed all their toys.  Drastic, yes. But something I felt was desperately needed for my family. 

I was worried about the reaction. My kids have never been ones to throw tantrums but if anything could set them off, this would be it. But surprisingly, they happily helped me pack them up. We did allow them to choose a few favorites and organized them into themed bins. They have a Doll bin, a Dress-Up bin, a My Little Pony bin, a Kitchen bin, and a Lego/Block bin. We set those in our closet for rainy days but so far, we haven't needed to take them down once. And we did leave their dollhouse, which is too big to store anywhere else.

As far as the iPad, we have reinstated it, but with conditions. They get one hour on the iPad on days they get all their chores done. Since they forget a chore most days, they haven't played with it in weeks. But the option is there. They just aren't interested.

So what have we learned the last month without toys and iPad? 






Well, a great perk to not having toys is there are none to clean up at the end of the day. That's June's favorite part, she never has to clean her room and my living room is always toy-free. 



My favorite though, is the change in June. She is calmer, more focused, easily entertained, and more active outside. Homeschooling is easier too since there is nothing distracting her from her work. She finds ways to entertain herself which is usually playing pretend with her little sister, reading, or coloring. And any chance she can get to play outside, she takes it. I thought they would be all up in my grill with no toys to play with but it's been quite the opposite.

Too many toys in the bedroom was just too tempting for Marie. We would often find her hording toys in bed hours after she should have been asleep. With no toys to distract her, she goes to bed easily. The room is calming and relaxing...what a bedroom should be for restorative sleep. 

My kids imagination has flourished without toys. Things are more open-ended now. They played with my broom, which changed from a pony, to a guardsman's sword, to a river of lava they have to get across over the course of the day. A broom. Entertained them. ALL DAY. 

I'm calmer too. The girls no longer fight over who gets to play the iPad which is great. And I no longer have to stop everything to search the house for Barbie's missing shoe that they just desperately need at THAT MOMENT (only to find them moved on to something else after I searched for an HOUR to find it). The days just seem to go more smoothly than they used to. Lots of quiet time with them sitting at the dining room table, coloring or crafting, which I'm happy to partake in. 

All in all, the Great Toy Purge of 2014 has been a raging success. Now that Winter has come, I expect to have to pull out a bin to get through the day, but I imagine they will be able to entertain themselves all day with those bins. We'll see. 




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Free yourself from Cable!



OK Let us be honest here, no one likes huge monthly bills, especially knowing you can find your favorite content online for a fraction of the price. So, how do you cut the cables? There are several ways to still watch your favorite shows and entertain the family. First you can buy a digital antenna that will pick up many local channels for local news and of course: FOOTBALL!!

Then there are the oh so popular options of purchasing a streaming player. This little magical boxes/devices can stream your favorite shows and/or movies from your wireless internet. Yes, you read that right, you must have wireless internet. These boxes partner with many companies to live stream many TV shows and even movies. Amazon sells many streaming boxes such as Apple TV (around $100, Roku (around $40), and is now taking pre orders fore their new Fire Stick HERE for only $19 (deal ends TODAY).

Today is the LAST day to get it for $19!!! Yes under $20 gets you live streaming entertainment straight to your TV and FREE Amazon Prime for 30 days. You can finally cut those cables!! So what are you waiting for?!? 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Buddy Burner Outdoor Cooking

There is nothing like the great outdoors, especially when you are camping.  Here is a clever and easy way to cook outdoors with supplies you probably have lying around the house.


What you need: 
    - 1 large empty clean can, gallon size 
    - 1 empty, cleaned tuna can 
    - cardboard strips, just wider than the height of the tuna can 
    - church key can opener, the ones used for cans of juice (makes triangle openings) 
    - good scissors
    - paraffin wax or unscented candles - melted


Instructions:

    1. With tin snips, cut door in can on open end. 
    2. With church key can opener, punch vent holes along the top of can 
    3. Spiral cardboard strips into tuna can 
    4. Pour melted wax into tuna can



Light the cardboard from the center and wait until the candle has a good fire.




Find a cutie and let them help you cook outdoors. We cooked cheeseburgers. However we have done pancakes with this method as well. 





Mmmmmm Mmmmmmmm.




Blessings ~ Chrissy

Friday, October 17, 2014

Easy Do It Yourself 3 Ingredient Cookie Cake

 
 
 
 
 
Oh wow just thinking about one of those big colorful cookie cakes from that "Patriotic Cookie Cake" store gets my mouth watering every single time! But as you know their yummy cakes can cost $35-$40. Now with this recipe you can DO IT YOURSELF.
 
So avoid the mall and make an amazing oh so yummy cooke cake at home!
It is SO easy and only 3 Ingredients.
 
 
DIY 3 Ingredient Cookie Cake (Makes 2 Cakes):
2 tubes of Chocolate Chip cookie dough
1/4 cup of Light Corn Syrup
Cooking Spray
 
2 x 16'' Pizza Pans
 
 
 
 
Prepare both pans with non-stick cooking spray.
Pre-heat oven to 350* F.
 
Measure out Corn Syrup and break up the 2 tubes of cookie dough.
 
 



In a large mixing bowl mix corn syrup and cookie dough throughly.







Divide mix in half or leave whole, for super thick cookie cake, and spread into pizza pans evenly.







Once again this recip can be divided into 2 cakes, or if your pan is deep enough, you can make one thick cookie cake (cooking time may vary).





Cook your home-made DIY cookie cake for 12-15 min or until toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.
 

ENJOY!!!


 
 
 
 
Blessings ~ Chrissy



Monday, October 6, 2014

Chicken and Dumplings Tutorial


The only chicken and dumplings I've ever had are those served at Cracker Barrel. Having worked there during my college years, I've had my fair share of them. So when the time came to cook them at home for the first time, I wanted them to be as close to the famous CB ones as possible. I think I did pretty good. Also, I never seem to have enough chicken stock in the house, so I keep bouillon handy for this recipe.

Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients

3 raw chicken breasts
8 cubes of chicken bouillon
8 cups of water
2 cups flour
2 Tbs Crisco
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup of milk
Salt/Pepper to taste

Step 1



In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cut in the Crisco with a fork. Stir in the milk until the dough forms a ball. Set aside.


Step 2




In a pot, combine the water and bouillon cubes. Heat on medium-high, until the cubes dissolve. Then add the raw chicken breasts. Boil the chicken breasts for about 20 minutes or until no longer pink inside. Once cooked, remove the chicken breasts and allow to cool slightly. Turn the burner down to medium heat.

Step 3




Heavily flour a rolling surface. Divide the dough in half (it's easier to work with) and roll each half thinly. Cut into squares (I use a pizza cutter). 


Step 4





Add the dumplings one at a time to the boiling broth. Stirring them in (I let the kids drop them in). Cook for about 15-20 minutes. They will thicken the broth. 

Step 5




Shred the cooked chicken breasts and add the meat to the dumplings and broth. Heat through, season with salt/pepper to taste.




Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Candy Corn Cocoa

Recently, I purchased Candy Corn. A candy I fully admit to hating. I thought I could implement it into our math lessons during Homeschool in October. But really, it's just a big bag of distraction. I don't know why I thought we could count Candy Corn without wanting to eat it all. So I put it up until I could decide what to do with it all. 

 Each fall/winter, as the temperature begins to drop, my girls begin requesting cocoa in the mornings. So as a way of using up the Candy Corn, we began making Candy Corn Cocoa. It's easy and actually tastes good (like an Orange Creamsicle). 

 Candy Corn Cocoa 

 Ingredients 

 2 cups milk 
1/4 cup white chocolate chips 
1/4 cup Candy Corn 
The peel of one orange (use a vegetable peeler, try to get only the orange peel and not the white underneath) 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
Pinch of salt 
Whipped Cream/
Candy Corn for topping 

 Step 1



In a saucepan, combine the milk, chocolate chips, candy corn, orange peel, extract, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the chocolate and candy corn has melted and the mixture is smooth.

Step 2



Strain out the orange peel and pour into cups. Garnish with whipped cream and a Candy Corn.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How I Painted my Linoleum Floors

I love my kitchen. It's my favorite room in the house. Over the years, I've slowly transformed it. Step by step, my kitchen has really shaped up nicely. 


Behold the before picture. Ceiling fan in the kitchen? Four different finishes of wood...old countertops and ugly linoleum floors. We began by painting the cabinets, island, window frames, and shelves white, and the walls a soft yellow. Later we replaced the sink with a large farmsink and the counters with a beautiful quartz. You can see my other kitchen renovation posts HERE.

One thing we just don't have in the budget right now is replacing the floors. But I really wanted to do something with it in the meantime. Paint can fix just about anything, so naturally, I decided to paint my linoleum floors. Here's how we did it.

First, I chose the colors. I browsed pictures of floors on the internet and found a color palette I liked. A cream and light brown. But before I could paint, I had to prime. I used a latex Kilz and painted one coat over the whole floor. Cutting in around cabinets with a brush and rolling the rest.




 Next was two coats of the cream color. I used a latex porch/patio paint. Again, cutting in around the cabinets with a brush and rolling the rest.



It was already looking WAY better than before.

So then the hard part...and I'm going to try and explain this part as best as I can, its a bit tricky.

I knew I wanted to paint a checkerboard design on the diagonal since my kitchen is so big, I thought painting them straight across would make it look too long. I also knew 12 inch squares were too small for my kitchen and 24 inch squares were too big. I went between the two sizes and decided 18 inch squares would be perfect. I also wanted to center the first square right under my sink and go out from there. Once I got those things in order, I was able to begin taping off squares.

You'll notice in the pictures that I alternated the tape from the inside to the outside every 18 inches. This was because I was essentially bordering out the squares I intended to paint AND protecting the edges of the squares I wanted to keep white simultaneously. I'll be elaborating on this at a later date.





Once the squares were taped off, the fun part began! I cut in each brown square first, then rolled each one. I did two coats of the latex porch/patio paint. 




After the second coat dried, I got to pull up all the tape. So. Much. Tape.








After the paint cures for a few days, I'll be putting down a few coats of water-based Polyurethane  made specifically for flooring. I'll update this post when I do. 

In the meantime, please enjoy a picture of me with all the pulled up painters tape on my head. 



Next week, I'll be putting up my tile backsplash, tune in for that post!